I think field-fresh, local tomatoes are one of the best treats of summer and I’m eating them as often as I can. They are worlds away from those imported impostors that we’re forced to use the rest of the year. Around here, field tomatoes are ready and baskets of them are available for a really good price. While I can’t keep the tomatoes fresh until winter, I can capture the flavour by slow-roasting them and then freezing them. Once they’re roasted, the tomatoes will keep in the freezer for months!
Slow-roasting concentrates the tomato flavour and with the addition of garlic and herbs, make a wonderful addition to pasta, soups, stews and sauces. They are also great for appetizers, served on a cracker with some cheese. And a bonus of this method is that infused tomato/garlic/herb oil that is left in the pan. Use it to pack some tomatoes in a jar to refrigerate and use right away, or save the oil to use in cooking or for a vinaigrette.
Tomatoes before and after (I like lots of garlic!)
Some ideas for your slow roasted tomatoes:
Stack the halves, alternating red and yellow tomatoes, in pretty jars, can them with a hot water bath, and give them as gifts.
Put several halves in the blender with some chicken broth and finish off with cream or half-and-half and additional herbs to make a terrific soup.
Use the left-over oil in dishes where it provides a great accent flavour.
Use them on pizza, in pasta, as an appetizer with goat cheese on a slice of lightly toasted baguette.
Use them throughout the winter for sauces, soups or stews.
Chop them up and add fresh basil and toasted pine nuts, to make a tomato basil pesto.
Slow Roasted Summer Tomatoes
Summary: Be sure your tomatoes are fully-ripe (but not over-ripe) to get the best end result. If you don’t have fresh thyme, you can use another fresh hardy herb like oregano or rosemary or you can leave it out altogether. You can use less oil if you like. You’ll just have less left-over infused oil at the end but the tomatoes will be just as nice. Be sure to use a baking sheet with a rim, otherwise the oil and juices will run off the pan and make a huge mess in your oven! If you don’t have a rimmed baking sheet, use shallow baking dishes instead.
- 3 Tbsp. plus 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4-1/2 to 5 lb. medium-large ripe beefsteak tomatoes (about 12), stemmed but not cored
- Kosher salt
- Granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- Heat the oven to 350° F. Line a 12 x 17-inch rimmed baking sheet or two 9×12-inch rimmed baking sheets with foil. If you have parchment, put a sheet on top of the foil. Coat the pan or pans with 3 Tbsp. of the olive oil.
- Cut the tomatoes in half through the equator (not through the stem). Arrange the halves, cut side up, on the baking sheet, turning to coat their bottoms with some of the oil. Sprinkle a pinch each of salt and sugar over each half, and drizzle each with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Arrange the garlic over the halves and top with a generous sprinkling of thyme. Pour the remaining 1 cup olive oil over and around the tomato halves, being careful not to wash the garlic and herbs off the top of the tomatoes.
- Roast in the centre of the oven until the tomatoes are concentrated, dark reddish brown, with deep browning around the edges and in places on the pan and quite collapsed (at least half their original height; they will collapse more as they cool), about 3 hours for very ripe, fleshy tomatoes, about 4 hours for tomatoes that are less ripe or that have a high water content. Let cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes and then serve warm or at room temperature. Be sure to reserve the tomato oil (keep refrigerated for up to a week) to use on its own or in a vinaigrette.
- Quicker-cooking variation: Remove the seeds and gelatinous pulp (poke them out with your fingers) before roasting. These tomatoes cook more quickly (check for done-ness after 2 hours) but yield a slightly flatter, less meaty but perfectly pleasant result.
- Plum tomato variation: Substitute plum tomatoes, cut in half through the stem end and seeded. The roasting time will be about 2 hours. Roasted plum tomato halves hold together particularly well; layer them in a terrine or roll them up, stuffed with goat cheese and basil, as an appetizer.
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 4 hours
Total time: 4 hours 15 min
Number of servings (yield): 12